O by Tammy Nguyen
***This is a preorder item. It will ship in late August 2022.***
From a dentist’s office in San Francisco to the caves of the Phong Nha Karst, Tammy Nguyen’s O sounds the depths of personal, mineral, and geopolitical histories of Vietnam. In this many-threaded narrative, a wind that carved mountains whistles through a young girl’s teeth. The electric green of a plastic forest glints off of glazed porcelain. The shape of a bowl becomes the mouth of a cave. What emerges is a story without a center: an anti-allegory that finds its meaning in echoes and refracted light, a book stitched together by the O woven through the work as its visual spine and sonic refrain.
Tammy Nguyen’s O should be filed under “Unclassifiable.” It is a memoir about her uncle, a pilot in the South Vietnamese Air Force who chose David as his American name because he defeated Goliath: a recounting of all the procedures the author went through because she was born with a genetic disorder that caused her to be missing two front teeth; an introduction to Vietnam’s manmade and natural landmarks, including the Ho Chi Minh Trail and a series of caves at least 400 million years old; a guide to real estate investment opportunities on a manmade island near Singapore, where the real estate agent claims there is “no climate change”: a compressed history and status accounting of wealthy Vietnamese families who lived in San Francisco; a report on the author’s visit to a small factory in New York that makes dentures and implants; an updated disquisition on Plato’s Cave; a primer on porcelain; a dream in which all the previous narratives meet. O is a major addition to diasporic literature. Already an accomplished artist, who has exhibited internationally, Nguyen proves herself to be an equally powerful and engaging writer. O belongs on a shelf with Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée and Sophia Al-Maria’s The Girl Who Fell to Earth: A Memoir.
- John Yau